Cecile Richards

Women's Rights Activist : b. 1957
Where's the common ground in this country? It's in helping young people get access to sex education, to help them prevent an unintended pregnancy, to finish school if they want to and live their dreams. I have yet to meet a parent who was excited about their teenager getting pregnant before finishing school.


In December 2015, Planned Parenthood's national president, Cecile Richards, spoke at a Unitarian church near Denver, Colorado. Richards' voice was calm and resolute as she talked about her commitment to serve those who come to Planned Parenthood for health care. Richards was honoring Planned Parenthood staff and volunteers for their steadfast courage and commitment to care after a violent attack on their center a week earlier. She said, "We've seen thousands of patients since last Friday, and will see millions this year…these doors stay open."  

Despite a history of facing organized opposition, attempts at intimidation, arson and violence,  Planned Parenthood has become the most popular healthcare institution in the United States because they offer the healthcare and service their clients, mostly women, want and need…including abortion to those who freely choose that option.

Cecile Richards knows that if decisions related to contraception and abortion are to remain private, the fight to preserve them must be made public.  And that public must be encouraged to vote in the best interests of themselves and their families.  Richards and Planned Parenthood's "Action Fund" are key elements in a broad national campaign to identify, register and motivate pro-choice women to vote; run for public office and replace those elected officials afraid to stand up to those who are on the wrong side of American women and their healthcare.  

Planned Parenthood's doors first opened in 1916, despite active opposition.  At the time, women with low incomes and no reliable means of managing their fertility lived with large families in tiny tenement apartments. Methods of contraception were illegal and maternal death was common. So, too, were dangerous – often fatal – illegal abortions. Margaret Sanger, the nurse who founded the first birth control clinic in the United States, was jailed for her efforts but prevailed to become the founder of an organization that has lasted over one hundred years.

In 2006, Cecile Richards became president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "The reason I took this job," she said, "is I feel like we need to go into the 21st century. Clearly, with some folks in the country, we're going to get there kicking and screaming."

Born in Waco, Texas in 1957, Cecile Richards grew up focused on social justice. In seventh grade, she wore a black armband to school to protest the war in Vietnam.  She was sent to the principal's office and scolded for her protest – an experience that helped spark a lifelong passion for activism.

In 1980, Cecile graduated with a B.A. from Brown University and, like her father, became involved in labor issues. From Texas to New Orleans to California, she worked as a labor organizer of low-wage workers. When her mother Ann Richards ran for governor of Texas in 1990, Cecile worked on her campaign. In 1995, concerned with the conservative trends in Texas, Cecile founded the Texas Freedom Network to mobilize support for progressive causes. Later, she became deputy chief of staff for California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who is currently the minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2004, before taking her current role, Cecile Richards was the founding president of America Votes, an organization promoting progressive issues. She is married to Kirk Adams, a labor organizer, and they have three children.

As Planned Parenthood approached its centenary in 2016, Cecile Richards was confronted with an attempt by anti-abortion activists to discredit the organization by surreptitiously recording conversations between medical staff and health center workers. The recordings were then edited to make it appear that fetal tissue collected at Planned Parenthood health centers was being provided for research in violation of laws governing donations by patients.

A defining event in the attempt to discredit Planned Parenthood came when the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by then-Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, interrogated Cecile Richards. For five grueling hours, majority committee members interrupted and talked over Richards. With the allegations against Planned Parenthood losing credibility, committee members attacked Richards and Planned Parenthood on unrelated issues. When the hearing was over, Rep. Chaffetz conceded that his committee found no wrongdoing. Richards said, "If more members of the Senate and Congress could get pregnant, we wouldn't be fighting about Planned Parenthood."

Despite the threats and political attacks, support for Planned Parenthood continues to grow.  One in five American women has used Planned Parenthood's services. A survey by Fox News on March 15, 2017 found that the most popular people, organizations, and causes in the country were Bernie Sanders and Planned Parenthood, followed by Obamacare. According to Richards, "We see young women with low incomes. Nearly 75 percent of our patients live at 150 percent of the federal poverty level or below. For many of them, we are the only place they can get access to affordable health care. Planned Parenthood is the safety net in this country…if you're concerned about preventing unintended pregnancy, you should triple the funding for Planned Parenthood."

Planned Parenthood is the preeminent provider of and advocate for reproductive health care in the United States, with more than 600 health centers serving 2.4 million men and women each year. Still, the services of the Planned Parenthood health centers are vulnerable. They face a Congress and an administration poised to eliminate the rights and services made possible by Planned Parenthood.

Cecile Richards, who steps down from leading Planned Parenthood in 2018, has carried the torch of a truth that has echoed for more than 100 years. As Margaret Sanger once said, "No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother." For some, that truth is as revolutionary today as it was then.


Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

Doctor : b. 1976
Flint is what happens when we dismiss science. Flint is what happens when we dismiss people. Flint is what happens when saving money is more important than public health.


When images of brownish-yellow lead contaminated water coupled with photos of residents whose bodies were covered in blistering rashes surfaced on internet news sites in 2014, people wanted to know what exactly was happening in one of the poorest communities in America -- Flint, Michigan. It was lead poisoning.  But it was not until Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician and public health advocate at the Hurley Medical Center, researched and revealed in September 2015 the inhumane and dangerous conditions people were living in there, that the world learned about Flint's water crisis.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha, is the daughter of Iraqi immigrants, both scientists, who fled Saddam Hussein's repressive regime for England in the 1970s. Mona was born in England in 1976 and shortly after that her parents moved to the US. After arriving in Flint, her mother taught English to other immigrants and her dad, a metallurgical engineer,  worked for General Motors. Soon enough their American dream became a reality.

Flint, located approximately 70 miles north of Detroit, has a population of 100,000 residents, 57% of whom are African-American and 37% white. This city was once the most prosperous middle class community in the US. With the collapse of the auto industry and the auto makers unions, Flint's prosperity evaporated. Now 42% of the city's residents live below the poverty line.

Still, after decades of economic disinvestment, public health issues and crippling poverty, no one expected Flint's citizens to be poisoned.

In April 2014, the City of Flint decided to save money by switching its water supply from the Detroit River and Lake Huron, for which Flint paid Detroit a fee, to the highly polluted Flint River. Flint saved even more money at their own water processing plant by not adding chemicals to the purifying process that would prevent lead from leaching from the city pipes into the water.

Miguel Del Toral of the  Environmental Protection Agency  acknowledged there were unsafe levels of lead in the water system, but nothing was done. A friend who worked for the EPA told Dr. Hanna-Attisha that a scientist from Virginia Tech, Marc Edwards, had found high levels of lead in Flint residents' tap water. Lead is a  neurotoxin that impacts brain development, how people think and behave. It's effects are especially damaging and incurable for children whose brains are still in formation. Dr. Hanna-Attisha began her own investigation and discovered that the lead levels in children's blood were 50% higher in 2015 than they had been before the 2014 switch in water sources. By the time she identified the problem, over 8000 children had been irreparably poisoned.

On September 24, 2015 she released a study that revealed that children had high levels of lead in their blood and it was caused by the Flint city council's decision to save money by using the Flint River as the municipal water source, rather than the well treated water provided by the Detroit Water and Sewage Department. As more children were being poisoned each day, Dr. Hanna-Attisha knew she needed to act urgently and ignored the long scientific process of have peer-reviewed studies done. She held a press conference and testified twice in court against the state of Michigan, which tried to discredit her and her team's allegations and research. And  she was ridiculed her personally.   

Dr. Hanna-Attisha's science, though, was irrefutable. Later, at the press conference in which the State of Michigan acknowledged the lead in water,  Department of Environmental Quality officials apologized to Dr. Hanna-Attisha. In his 19 January 2016 State of the State address, Governor Rick Snyder publicly thanked Dr. Hanna-Attisha and Marc Edwards for sounding the alarm about the Flint Water Crisis.

While Dr. Hanna-Attisha admitted that there were moments when she was scared, there was no doubt that she was right. During a TEDMED talk, Dr. Hanna-Attisha said, "As physicians we have taken an oath to stand up as the healers and the protectors. We were fighting for the future that lives and grows inside our children and this was not a fight we could lose. Not on my watch."

There  is no safe level of lead for human consumption. To this day, Dr. Hanna-Attisha and her team are working diligently for the children and families of Flint and in other cities like Baltimore and Chicago where people living in poverty are exposed to lead. Although there is no way to flush led from the body once it's there, the effects can be mediated by a healthy, high calcium diet. Dr. Hanna-Attsha  has been ia leader in the campaign to  educate people about the importance of good nutrition, and to make nutritious food available to poor people. "The most potent medication that we can prescribe is to lift our families out of poverty," she says.  

For her role in exposing the Flint Water Crisis and her public health advocacy in response to the crisis, Time Magazine named Dr. Hanna-Attisha one of the Most Influential People in 2016. She was also included in the Politico 50. She was  the recipient of the 2016 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling and the PEN American Center James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Award and as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans of 2016. Hanna-Attisha was also named Michiganian of the Year by the Detroit News.

She was awarded the Rose Nader Award for Arab American activism by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and named the Champion of Justice by ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services). In 2016 Hanna-Attisha was the commencement speaker at Michigan State University, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and Virginia Tech among other universities.[42][43]

Hanna-Attisha has also been recognized by environmental organizations, including the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, the Michigan Environmental Council, the Ecology Center and Children's Environmental Health Network. She was named a Union of Concerned Scientists 2016 Got Science? Champion.

On 30 March 2017, Hanna-Attisha was named an honorary co-chair of the March for Science.


Stephen Ritz

Teacher : b.
The greatest natural resource in the world is the unused and untapped potential residing in underserved, marginalized, and low status communities.


In the midst of the tall buildings, bright lights, and world renowned restaurants of the city that never sleeps and sports the nickname "The Big Apple", exist food deserts. One of these, a part of the South Bronx where  45,000 people within a 8 block radius have no easy access to nutritious groceries, has become the laboratory for a hyperactive, former basketball player who's using his cheerful enthusiasm to turn a desert into an oasis of healthy food. "I'm not a farmer. I'm a people farmer. My favorite crop is organically grown citizens," says the tall, skinny guy wearing a floppy cheese hat, bow tie and "Si Se Puede" t-shirt. That's educator, author, and urban farmer Stephen Ritz.

The son of immigrants, Steve Ritz discovered early on that any kid could learn if supported by a nurturing environment. When he became a teacher himself he sought out those considered to be the toughest cases, the poor kids, the special-ed kids, the kids who barely spoke English, and those with criminal records or from broken homes. To their classroom he brought faith in the idea that education could change lives, and, perhaps most importantly, high expectations. "We have to stop placing the blame on poverty," he writes in his book The Power of a Plant. "Poor kids can rise to high expectations, but first you have to have those expectations." After getting his Masters in Education from Arizona State University, Ritz would return to the Bronx where he grew up and got his start teaching and dive back into the schools responsible for educating the children of the poorest congressional district in the whole country. He and his students surprised people. They did so well that some of Ritz's colleagues became resentful.

Part of his secret? Realizing that "if we were going to address the root problems that challenge children, we need to let children self-identify the problems they perceive as the impediments to their success," writes Ritz.

The phrase "root problems" took on new meaning for Ritz in 2004. Not knowing what they were, Ritz stuck a box of daffodil bulbs under his classroom radiator. When the students discovered them in bloom, they were entranced. Soon landscaping and ornamental gardening became schoolwork for the newly minted "Green Team." His gardening students were featured in the news and awarded the Golden Daffodil Award by the New York City Council. In 2005, they started growing vegetables. This marked the beginning of an empowering journey that Ritz has called "From Crack to Cucumbers."

Now his students have grown more than 50,000 pounds of healthy vegetables. On the fourth floor of the 100-year-old school building in a neighborhood where, to quote the educator, Jonathan Kozol, "Nobody says we're going to make [young people] less separate and more equal,"  lives a green house, better known as the Green Bronx Machine. That is where Ritz and his students plant, water, study, grow and produce vegetables that they share with the greater Bronx community. Ritz and his team of students built the first Indoor edible wall in New York City and his project based learning program has led to dramatic improvements in school attendance -- from 40% to 93% percent. More impressively, 100% of students get passing grades. 

So, where does the food go? "Zero miles to plate or to local shelters where kids are getting one to two meals a day," says Ritz. And if you ask, he will tell you that he and his students are growing their way into a new economy. In one of his inspiring TedX talks, Ritz says, "Our park feeds hundreds of people without a food stamp or a fingerprint."

In a poor corner of America where 37% of the population struggles with food insecurity and 59% of kids live below the poverty line, Ritz and his students are changing business as usual. He believes, "kids should not have to leave their community to live, learn and earn a better one", and based on that belief and his brilliance they no longer have to.  The Green Bronx Machine promotes and disseminates the lessons he and his students have learned about growing good food.

His work has been recognized in New York and beyond. Among Ritz's accolades are the 2016 Project Based Learning Champion Award, 2016 Health Champion Award, 2016 Dr. Oz Award, 2015 BAMMY Laureate – Elementary Educator of the Year Award, 2014 Greenius Award, 2014 Green Difference Award, 2013 Latin Trends Award, the NYC Chancellor's Award and various others.

It is fair to say, paraphrasing Ritz himself, that the most important seeds he has planted and seen grow and bloom are the young people right in his community were a series of "collisions, connections, and co-learnings" are transforming residents' sense of place.



Naomi Klein

Author, Journalist, Activist : b. 1970
...our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity's use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it's not the laws of nature.


One of the world's most powerful voices against capitalism's negative impact on human life and the earth's ecosystems, Naomi Klein was born to American parents in Montreal on May 8, 1970.  Her award-winning journalism has appeared in The Nation, The Guardian, and Harper's magazine.  She has also published four international bestselling books.

Klein grew up in a family of activists. In 1967, her parents left the United States for Canada in protest of the Vietnam War. Her mother was a feminist filmmaker and her grandparents at one time were communists.

As a young person, Klein's interests chafed with those of her socially engaged family. Rather than joining her parents in activism, she set out to be a typical teenager, spending her time at the mall, ogling designer labels. But Klein experienced an awakening at age 17 when a severe stroke disabled her mother. Instead of starting college at the University of Toronto, Klein spent a year caring for her mother. In 2000, Klein told The Guardian, "I think that's what stopped me from being such a brat." She also spoke about her transition from disengaged teen to socially engaged journalist:  "I know the only way that I escaped the mall--which is not to say that I don't ever go, or enjoy it--the only way I got consumerism and vanity into a sane place in my life, though I don't think we are ever rid of them, was just by becoming interested in other things."

Klein's omnivorous, interdisciplinary interest in other things has made her a primary voice on the destructive effects of unfettered capitalism.  Her first book, No Logo (1999) addressed corporate branding that targets youth, limits consumer choice, and generates global profits that depend on sweatshops and abusive working conditions. Klein's focus on the resistance to social injustice and the successes of these justice movements makes her books both hopeful and successful. In No Logo, Klein offers examples of counter-branding movements as a form of social activism.

Her second book, Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002), collected her articles and speeches about the anti-globalization movement's protest events and interactions with law enforcement. Klein uses fences and windows as metaphors for the limitations and opportunities for the sharing of new ideas that can break free from the corporate-dominated economy. In The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) she details how libertarian free market policies that exploit citizens have been put into practice at times when citizens are least able to effectively work against them. And most recently, Klein published This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (2014). Here she shows how the same capitalist forces she wrote about in No Logo are also responsible for climate change. Continuous consumption, mega-mergers, and trade agreements drive our growth economy and increase the CO2 and methane emissions that have the potential to change the world's climate, geography, and environment irrevocably. But even here Klein offers hope, believing that a rapid adoption of renewable energy would not only save the climate, but would positively address social and economic inequalities around the world as clean energy adoption creates stronger communities, sustainable jobs, and more regulated industry with less emphasis on constant growth.

In 2015, Klein spoke to Der Spiegel about the need for major policy change to limit CO2 emissions, insisting that the small changes citizens have been encouraged to make are not enough to counter the effects of industrial capitalism. According to Klein, "when shopping as a way of life is exported to every corner of the globe, that requires energy. A lot of energy." As a result of this high energy use, "we need a dramatic change both in policy and ideology, because there is a fundamental difference between what the scientists are telling us we need to do and our current political reality. We can't change the physical reality, so we must change the political reality."

As part of her work toward changing the political reality, Klein sits on the board of 350.org, the organization founded by truth-teller Bill McKibben to channel grassroots action against climate change. According to their website, "The number 350 means climate safety: to preserve a livable planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 400 parts per million to below 350 ppm." 350.org does practical work to lower carbon emissions in almost every country in the world. They fight coal power plants in India and the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. and encourage public institutions everywhere to divest themselves of fossil fuel related businesses.

Klein says that we can't wait on governments and businesses to do the right thing. Thinking back to a long line of American activists, she says "…in the US, all the major legal and social transformations of the last 150 years were a consequence of mass social movements, be they for women, against slavery or for civil rights. We need this strength again, and quickly, because the cause of climate change is the political and economic system itself."

Hunger, Homelessness - Messalonskee Middle School: SSC 2015

Subject: Hunger, Homelessness, Poverty
Themes: Food & Health Homeless Rights Young Activists 21st Century
Age groups: Elementary School Middle School
Resource type: Video

Samantha Smith Challenge

Messalonskee Middle School

Grades 7 and 8

Scroll down to see the video!

The Issue: Homelessness, Hunger, Poverty

The Question: How can we work together in conjunction with the Maine State Government to reduce homelessness, hunger, and poverty in our state?

Community Partners and Stakeholders:

  • Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter
  • Johnny's Selected Seeds
  • State and Local Government Officials

Facts Learned that Influenced Your Thinking:

  • One in eight families in Maine is living in hunger/poverty.
  • Maine has 43% more poverty than every other state.
  • The two biggest causes of homelessness are lack of affordable housing and loss of jobs.
  • Maine is the third most hungry state.

Plan of Action:

  • Research
  • BakeSale
  • Share MMHS brochures in our community
  • Bird House on MMS Trails


  • We will be planting a garden of peas and green beans at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter.
  • Residents will plant with us to be able to sustain the garden after we're gone and use the crops in their cooking.

Ongoing support needed:

We just need the snow to melt to be able to actually go plant at the MMHS and hang our birdhouse on the trails.


Adam DeWitt (Grade 8) Ainsley Corson (Grade 7)

Alysan Rancourt (Grade 7) Chase Veregge (Grade 8)

Connor Collins (Grade 7) Emma DiGirolamo (Grade7)

Eve Lilly (Grade 7) Hannah Cummings (Grade 7)

Hunter Atwood (Grade 8) Jordan Devine (Grade 7)

Josie Varney (Grade 8) Katie Luce (Grade 7)

Madison Jewell (Grade 7) Makenzie Smith (Grade 7)

Matthew Dostie (Grade 7) Molly Glueck (Grade 7)

Myranda Wohlford (Grade 7) Paige Lilly (Grade 7)

Teacher: Lindsay Mahoney

Quotations from Students:

  • "There are a lot more homeless people in our community than I expected. The homeless shelters need more help and resources than they have. It was a good learning experience because I learned how to help people right now in our state."
  • "It was fun because it wasn't school work; we got to go out in the community and change an issue that is affecting our area."
  • "I like that we are making a difference by helping the homeless shelter and not just learning about it."
  • "We learned to look at problems in the world/our community and figure out how we could solve them, not rely on others to solve them for us."

Healthy Food - York Middle School: SSC 2015

Subject: Eating healthy food, Nutrition, Sustainable diet
Themes: Food & Health Young Activists 21st Century Environmental Issues
Age groups: Elementary School Middle School
Resource type: Video

Samantha Smith Challenge

York Middle School

Team Snow Leopard, Team 1

Grade 7

Scroll down to see the video!

The Issue: Eating Healthy

The Question: What does it mean to eat healthy?

Community Partners and Stakeholders:

  • Local farmers
  • Local Hannaford store
  • YMS community

Facts and Resources that Influenced Your Thinking:

  • Students watched the movie Food Inc., which gave them an overview of the food system here.
  • They started their research around the topics of GMO's, pesticides, corn products, Monsanto, and slaughterhouses.
  • Through their research, they realized that they had to re-focus and choose a specific topic, as the topic of "food revolution" was too big. They decided on "what it means to eat healthy".

Plan of Action:

  • To teach the YMS and York communities about what it means to eat healthy.
  • Make a website with the following:
  • Tasty Tips for eating healthy
  • Tips for how to plant a garden
  • Tips for what to pack for healthy school lunches
  • PSA with this info in it
  • Hanging Tasty Tip signs around the school and at the local Hannaford.
  • Make healthy snacks for the team while we showcase our projects.


Findings of research include:

  • What it means to eat healthy--
  • Eat nutritious foods that your body will like.
  • Upping fruit & vegetable intake.
  • Limiting the amount of processed foods.
  • Eat meat & animal products in moderation.
  • Go to your local farmer's markets.


  • Belle Babcock Grace Beecher

  • Lily Brodski Ashley Carney

  • Leah Daigneault Aidan Drew

  • Sydney Fogg Riley Johnston

  • Delaney LaBonte Sara L.amoureaux

  • Riley Linn Justin Suarez

  • Logan Works

Teacher: Melissa Fenelon

Names of people who made the video: Riley Linn & Riley Johnston

Thoughts about this experience:

"I gained confidence in speaking by going to the farmers market and interviewing the farmers." - Sydney Fogg

"This made me think about what I eat more & made me more cautious about what is in my food." - Aidan Drew

"During our showcase, it really came out how much work everyone did for the community." - Riley Linn

"It felt good to make a change in people's thoughts on healthy eating." - Leah Daigneault

"The process made me think about how I am living and eating." - Grace Beecher

Hunger - Messalonskee Middle School: SSC 2015

Subject: Hunger, Homelessness, Poverty
Themes: Food & Health Homeless Rights Young Activists 21st Century
Age groups: Elementary School Middle School
Resource type: Video

Messalonskee Middle School

Team Pemaquid

Grades 7 and 8

Scroll down to see the video!

The Issue: Hunger

The Question: How can we help prevent hunger in our school and community?

Community Partners and Stakeholders:

  • School Lunch Program- William D. Hamilton MS, RD, SNS, Nutrition Director RSU No. 18
  • Farm to School Committee- Clair Heffernan chair
  • Community Raised Bed Co-ordinator Tom Pullen
  • Summer School Free Lunch Program
  • Faculty and Students from the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences
  • Bonnie Sammons- master gardener

Facts (and Resources) Learned that Influenced Your Thinking:

  • One out of five kids= 16 million struggle with hunger
  • Childhood hunger is linked to developmental, behavioral and academic problems
  • Video: A Place at the Table
  • Data on GMOs and Fake Foods
  • Fast Food Nation

Plan of Action:

  • Research on an area dealing with hunger and nutrition
  • Create informational projects for school population: bulletin board in hall, posters, websites, podcasts
  • Build fairy houses on trail to inform the elementary students about issues around food
  • Run taste tests on healthy food choices for breakfast and snacks
  • Build a hoop house (greenhouse) and refresh community raised beds
  • Plant seeds and grow seedlings to transplant into the raised beds
  • Harvest vegetables to donate to summer school lunch program, community food bank, and team lunch and snack shack
  • Apply for a larger greenhouse to increase harvest for the whole school


  • Fairy houses built and places on trail with informational signage
  • Ran taste tests that students enjoyed using fruits and vegetables
  • Informational posters and bulletin boards up and read by many students
  • Seedlings grown and waiting for planting outside
  • Hoop house up and raised beds made/refreshed
  • Seeds planted

Ongoing support needed:

  • Students and community members to harvest, water, and weed garden beds over the summer
  • Food service program to wash and prepare food for students
  • Grant money to buy supplies to continue this work next year and/or expand our garden

Entire Team Pemaquid (84 students)

Focus crew:

Gabby Wood-McGuckin-8 Ryan Pullen-8

Hunter Smart-8 Julia Cooke-8

Noah Cummings-8 Magan Williams-8

Seth Main-8 Isaac Violette-7

Hannah DelGiudice-7 Eli Ross-7

Parker Brunelle-8 Leighara McDaniel-7


Kim Fish

Amanda Ripa

Linda Haskell

Names of people who made the video:

Kim Fish

Gabby Wood-McGuckin

Thoughts about this experience:

This unit has brought up conversations at home because it's a project that is very personal to me. - Julia Cooke

We wanted to get a hoop house and grow food because there are a lot of people in our community that don't have enough food or at least healthy food they can eat due to the expense. -Peyton Arbor

We realized a lot of people in our school have choices at lunch, but they don't always like the choices left by third lunch. If we can grow food, then we can provide more choices on the salad bar with fresh food from our garden, then the kids might actually like it. - Noah Cummings

This project has given the students a voice in the community and has made them feel that they can make a difference. Several students plant to try gardens at home as well. Many are eagerly awaiting the first harvest in the summer. They are very proud of their work.

Poverty - Leonard Middle School: SSC 2015

Subject: Poverty, Hunger, Homelessness
Themes: Community Development Food & Health Homeless Rights Young Activists 21st Century
Age groups: Elementary School Middle School
Resource type: Video

Samantha Smith Challenge

J. A. Leonard Middle School

Fox Team – Grade 8

Scroll Down To See the Video!

The Issue: Poverty

The Question: What is it like to be in poverty and what can we do about it?

Community Partners and Stakeholders: Penquis CAP, Former Peace Corps Workers, Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, Manna Ministries, Seeds of Hope, Old Town Police Department, Crossroads Food Pantry

Facts Learned that Influenced Your Thinking:

People in poverty are

  • the same as everyone else
  • not to blame
  • not more likely than the general population to be alcoholics, drug addicts, or criminals
  • sometimes made villains and/or scapegoats.

Some people have way more than they need (especially the top1%) and it squeezes what's left for the rest of us.

People in poverty have a different perspective about food, education, entertainment—more survival than choice.

Poverty looks different internationally.

Plan of Action:

  • Insulate a house in the community
  • Sort, organize, and/or distribute food at Manna and Seeds of Hope
  • Cook and serve lunch at Bangor Area Homeless Shelter
  • Create a newspaper about poverty and other community issues
  • Write letters to editors, legislators, and governor

Project Results:

  • We completed all the above activities, which helped our community.
  • Students gained a better understanding about poverty and became advocates for people in poverty.
  • Students learned not to judge, especially without all the information.
  • Students gained empathy for others.
  • Students learned they can make a difference.

Ongoing support needed:

For next year, it would be great to have better video equipment, especially microphones.


Humam Al-Fdeilat Olivia Albert KyraArmitage

Danielle Baker Brian Barnaby Nick Baron

Abby Brackett Faith Bromiley Addy Chabe

Alex Chapman Ryan Chubbuck Dante Crenshaw

Kaitlyn Dunham Emily Dunlap James Emery

Isaac Epp Zach Fostun Ana Hamilton

Emma Hargreaves Zach Ireland Meaghan Kelley

Maura Kelly Abby Ketch Emily Ketch

Hunter Lee Logan Lilly Brittany Madden

Anna Muscatelle Nick Oechslie Demetrius Porter

Adam Regan Erin Snyder Brandi Swoboda

Hannah Talcove Kallie Thompson Libby Trefts

Levi Trefts Charlie Turner Destiny Webber

Teachers: Gert Nesin and Jay Meigs McDonald

Names of people who made the video:

Zach Fostun Ryan Chubbuck Abby Ketch

Emily Ketch Demetrius Porter Adam Regan

Libby Trefts Hannah Talcove Levi Trefts

Student quotations about poverty:

  • "I learned how important it is to help people living in poverty, and how serious it is. Also, I learned that stereotypes needed to be broken, and how in my eyes they were broken."
  • "Just by looking at someone, it doesn't say who they truly are."
  • "Poverty isn't just one thing. Poverty has many faces, many causes, and many solutions."
  • "Not only adults can help with poverty. Students can, too."
  • "People in poverty are pretty much just like regular people, just without money."

Quotations about what students learned through doing this:

  • "I can help people in poverty and that I can make a difference."
  • "I am more caring than I thought."
  • "I felt honored to be helping people and made me feel good as a person."
  • "I learned that I care about people in poverty, and ending poverty a lot more than I thought."
  • "How easy it is to make a difference in someone's life."
  • "I learned to not judge anybody by how they look…and that I do judge people sometimes. But I need to stop because I don't know what they are going through or who they are."
  • "I always have room to grow. I had thought about poverty as something very other than myself, something that didn't really affect me. Turns out it's not, and the kind of thinking I used to have was actually part of the problem because it prevented us from finding solutions."
  • "It is okay to help people that need it, without thinking you're doing the right thing or being judged for wanting to help with people who need it."
  • "I actually want to help people in poverty and that a lot of these people are like me."
  • "These people are good people. That's the simple truth of it all."

Quotations about doing a service learning project, like the Samantha Smith Challenge:

  • "It tugs at the heart strings…but is definitely something worth doing."
  • "Make sure what you do is important to you, because you will learn more."
  • "It is so worth it. It makes you feel good while also giving back to the community."
  • "Every little thing makes a difference."
  • "Don't go in with a certain mindset."
  • "Classes need to interact with people, because everyone is different and that means they have different ways of dealing with issues. They need to talk to people because people are the ones who are affected and people are the ones who will solve the problems."
  • "Getting involved is definitely worth it because you will learn a lot."

Hunger - York Middle School: SSC 2015

Subject: Hunger, Homelessness, Poverty
Themes: Food & Health Homeless Rights Young Activists 21st Century
Age groups: Elementary School Middle School
Resource type: Video

Samantha Smith Challenge

York Middle School

Team Puma, Group 2

Grade 7

Scroll down to see the video!

The Issue: Hunger in York, Maine

The Question: Although York is known as a wealthier town, there are still many hungry people. How can we help the people who rely on the local food pantries and other organizations?

The Solution: Our solution is to hold a can and donation drive around York. In addition, we will post flyers to create awareness of the problem. Finally, we will volunteer in one of the local soup kitchens to further feed the hungry.

Community Partners and Stakeholders Consulted:

  • Table of Plenty, a community kitchen serving free weekly meals in the towns of York, Berwick, and Kittery, Maine.
  • End 68 Hours of Hunger, York, Maine group
  • York Food Pantry
  • Local businesses to sponsor donation boxes

Resources that Influenced Your Thinking:

  • Statistics from local agencies
  • Statistics from Maine.gov
  • Research on a variety of topics dealing with hunger issues

Plan of Action:

After researching the topic, the students were able to get local businesses to participate in their can and food drive. The students also were able to contact the Table of Plenty and are working together to find a time when the students can volunteer their time.

Ongoing support needed:

Students still need to place their donation boxes around town, and volunteer at the Table of Plenty.


Kate Nowell Tommy Coughlin

Jade Bellevance Bella Tidd

Connor Moore Cat Wright

Nina Howe Biz Desmarais

Aislinn Lewis Brianna Baker

Catey de la Pena Eli Hultstrom

Zoe Lafleur-Kief Jonathan Higgins

Adam Diment

Teacher: Mr. Scott Dorr, Science Teacher, Puma Team

Names of people who made the video: The whole group!

Thoughts about this Experience:

"Citizens can help their community at any age. I'm only 12 years old and I am helping hungry people in York." -Bella Tidd

"I think the people need to become more aware about hunger not just in York, but worldwide. This project helped me feel committed and more aware, after I found out how many people die from hunger." -Kate Nowell

"I learned that a few citizens helping can make a difference." – Jonathan Higgins

Dick Gregory's webpage

Subject: Civil rights, Diet and Nutrition, Comedy, Activism
Themes: Food & Health Homeless Rights Peace Makers Young Activists The Arts Education Civil Rights 21st Century 20th Century Environmental Issues Journalism and Media
Age groups: Middle School High School Homeschooling
Resource type: Websites

Dick Gregory and Martin Luther King photo, from Dick Gregory's website.

"I waited at the counter of a white diner for 11 years ... When they finally integrated, they didn't have what I wanted".

Gregory and King were often seen together, marching, demonstrating, and conferring on various aspects of the Civil Rights movement.

This website contains clips of his stand-up performances, a biography, a summary of his activism, his history as a wellness guru, an interview by David Chalmers, and a "fanzine" called "The Hood".

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